Friday, August 10, 2007
"Leave the Capital"
My family owns a cabin in northern Michigan. We’ve owned it for about 100 years. In that time the cabin, has fallen into and been pulled out of various stages of disrepair and neglect.
Currently it is in need of updating and a little remodel--that plaid rug that was the height of cottage sophistication in the 50s just looks ugly and sad in the light of the 21st Century--not unlike Jacksonville’s art scene.
For the past several months, on various blogs and in various outlets, the state of Jacksonville’s art scene has been viciously, sometimes personally attacked. Several of the newer artists on the scene are loudly (and generally not without justification) proclaiming the need for a revolution, an upheaval, in short: drastic change. And they are right. The state of Jacksonville’s local art scene is often lamentable. Consistently we see our best and brightest leave for more fertile grounds.
However, that does not mean that there was nothing here before the current crop, and to consistently denigrate those how have held on for twenty-five years and more is an embarrassing tactic that serves no-one.
Recently, I got together with George Kinghorn to talk about how Jacksonville’s contemporary scene can evolve, as well as MOCA’s role in that evolution. First off, we talked about the perception that the museum doesn’t support local artists (expounded upon by commentators on Folio Weekly’s blog on June 12, 2007).
George said that the charge that MOCA--and by implication, Kinghorn himself--doesn’t support local artists simply isn’t true. He points to the uppermost gallery in the museum that primarily shows the works of emerging local artists. That is not to say that the museum space should be considered a venue that everyone is entitled to, however, it is a dedicated space. And the artists who have showed there do not include the so-called Jacksonville standards (and that changes depending on who you talk to); Tonya Lee, Ian Chase, Jay Shoots and currently, the works of five University of Florida MFA students have/are showing there.
In addition, George pointed to past workshops and portfolio reviews he’s coordinated “..teaching artists how to get their foot in the door, marketing essentials for artists; the nuts and bolts of it—the essential tools one needs to present to galleries and museums.”
He also said that in regards to submissions “the museum expects that things come in a unified theme, with a cohesive concept, and that it is polished.” Then George showed me a project that was left for him: a painted fruit crate, with a tacked together construction in the middle and a torn out sheet of notebook paper. Not exactly the stuff of art-historical legend.
Then we talked about the city’s need for a Contemporary Arts Center and the role that he is willing to, and excited about, playing.
“I am available for people to come an talk to. If a group has a unified theme, a mission…I will be happy to help them, to sit on a board, to offer practical advise,” he said. He also talked about the practical uses of a non-profit space, and how a group of 10 artists could band together and after one year, the group would be eligible for non-profit status.
George said that spaces like Eyedrum (in Atl.) the Dallas Center of Contemporary Art, serve as stepping-stones. Also a place to have classes and hold lectures…and mount juried shows, with an invited juror who could then explain his decision-making process. The “best in show” award could be a solo show in the space.
Lastly, we touched upon the recently stated urgent need for an MFA program here (an idea introduced over at JaxCal ). Which he wholeheartedly supported, echoing many of the thoughts expressed on JaxCal (i.e. intellectual growth, professionals vs. hobbiests…etc.).
All in all, it would seem that Jacksonville has been an “emerging art scene” for decades now. The question is how to move beyond our perennially fledgling stage. Maybe we should band together like my family is trying to…and at least paint the ideological walls white.
Times Union: www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/080507/lif_188861168.shtml